Wrapping Up Pac-12 Performance in Thanksgiving Week Tournaments

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 3rd, 2013

The early season exempt tournaments are a great opportunity for teams to get in several games over the course of a few days, often against pretty good competition. By the time these events are over, we begin to have a good idea about the overall quality of teams, how their resume is shaping up, and what they will need to do from here on out. Pac-12 teams had some mixed results over the past week, but below we will take a quick look at how some of the teams from the conference fared in their events.

Arizona – The Wildcats are the one Pac-12 team that had an unquestionably great event. They swept through four games against increasingly tough competition in the NIT Season Tip-Off, capping it off by scoring an impressive win over Duke at Madison Square Garden on Friday. Sean Miller’s club has done everything you want a young team to do early in the year: improve every game, compete hard, and maintain focus, all while piling up the wins. As a result of last week’s performance, Arizona now finds itself at #2 in both major national polls, with two #1 votes in the AP and a single #1 vote in the Coaches poll.

Arizona Got Balanced Scoring And Great Defense In A Big Win Over Duke (USATSI)

Arizona Got Balanced Scoring And Great Defense In A Big Win Over Duke (USATSI)

Arizona State – While their in-state rival had a great tournament, the Sun Devils’ weekend at the Wooden Legacy was disastrous. Getting blown out in the opening game against Creighton is one thing; certainly not ideal, but at least against a good team. The problem was that put Arizona State in the consolation bracket with a bunch of teams that would provide little benefit if beaten, but a major strike if defeated by. After knocking off College of Charleston on Friday night and looking solid in the first half against Miami on Sunday, it looked like the Sun Devils would get out of Orange County with just disappointment rather than disaster. But then Jahii Carson turned it over three times and went 0-for-9 in the second half, including a couple of missed layups in the final minute, and Arizona State fell to Miami. Now, with no remaining non-conference games that will do anything to improve their resume, the Sun Devils will head into Pac-12 play with a win over Marquette last week as the lone victory against a team in KenPom’s top 100.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 18th, 2013

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  1. Oregon State scored a big win on Sunday evening, both for themselves and for the conference. Playing at Maryland in front of, among others, President Obama, the Beavers looked impressive, getting big nights from a pair of seniors and scoring a road win against a solid ACC squad. Roberto Nelson led the way with 31 points (he’s now averaging 30.3 PPG this year), but the big difference for the Beavers was the presence of forward Devon Collier, who scored 29, grabbed 11 boards and blocked a couple of shots. After a game missed due to suspension, he at least gives Oregon State some athleticism and size up front. When Eric Moreland becomes available come January, this will be almost a whole different team than the one that melted against Coppin State last week. And just for the record, Craig Robinson and the Beavers are now 4-0 in games attended by the President.
  2. Now, about that loss to Coppin State, it is just one of three particularly concerning defeats around the conference, as Vince Grippi of The Spokesman-Review writes. While the Stanford loss to BYU itself isn’t all that damning, the fact that it came at home and in a game where they gave up 112 points looks bad. But worse yet are OSU’s loss to Coppin State and Washington’s loss to UC Irvine. Certainly some portion of these losses could be excused away by suspensions and/or injuries, but regardless, these losses will hurt conference RPI numbers in the long run.
  3. Despite that loss last week, Stanford has somewhat gotten back on track, most recently on the road against a good Denver team on Sunday. Chasson Randle continued his hot start to the season with a 29-point explosion (on 14 field goal attempts) as the Cardinal distanced themselves in the second half after a tight first 20 minutes. The Cardinal now kick off a faux-tournament with a home game against Texas Southern this week and one at the start of December against South Dakota State, with the real part of the Legends Classic bracket set for Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week in Brooklyn. Stanford will open that event with a match-up against Houston and, provided they win, a likely resume game with Pittsburgh in the final.
  4. Washington State has also had a hot guard to start the season, namely DaVonte Lacy, who has averaged 24.5 points in the Cougars’ first two outings. But maybe the best news for Ken Bone’s squad is that freshman Ike Iroegbu has averaged 20 minutes, 10.5 points and just 1.5 turnovers per game in his first couple of outings. If Iroegbu can continue to provide some minutes at the point, it allows guys like Lacy and Royce Woolridge to play more off of the ball.
  5. Lastly, Jim Hague of the Hudson Reporter has a piece on Kyle Anderson of UCLA and the differences between his rough start to his college career last year and his more comfortable role this season at UCLA. With Larry Drew II locked in at the point last year, Anderson spent most of the year off the ball, playing up front as almost an afterthought. This year, he’s the main man, running the show on offense and more comfortably stuffing the stat sheet. While the story — aided and abetted by Kyle Anderson Sr. — is that this will be the younger’s last year at UCLA before heading off to a professional career, the sophomore isn’t willing to go down that road quite yet.
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A Recap Of Opening Weekend in the Pac-12

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 11th, 2013

The Pac-12 opened the 2013-14 season with a big splash in South Korea and ended with a head-scratching upset in Corvallis. Let’s take a closer look at how the conference fared through the first three days of the regular season.

Young, A Transfer Out Of Houston, Made His Case For Newcomer Of The Year In The Pac-12 After A Stellar Opening Night Performance Against Georgetown. (credit: Lee Jim-man)

Young, A Transfer Out Of Houston, Made His Case For Newcomer Of The Year In The Pac-12 After A Stellar Opening Night Performance Against Georgetown. (credit: Lee Jim-man)

Best Game – Oregon vs Georgetown: The stage couldn’t have been bigger. A top 20 Oregon team, missing two of its starters after receiving suspensions earlier in the week, against a good Georgetown club, being played in South Korea on ESPN at the Armed Forces Classic. The Ducks jumped out to a 19-9 lead on the Hoyas before they finally found their offense, but Georgetown eventually settled down and got a Mikael Hopkins jumper with 10 seconds remaining in the first half to pull within three. Oregon held onto a lead for the final 15 minutes of the game, but each time it looked as if it would pull away, Georgetown would come up with a big stop to stay within striking distance. The dagger came with two and a half minutes to play, as senior Richard Amardi slammed home a dunk to end a mini-Hoya run, putting the Ducks up 73-68. Junior guard Joseph Young led Oregon with 24 points and five rebounds.

Upsets – Only one, but it was a biggie. Coppin State, who was picked to finish ninth in the MEAC, went into Corvallis without its best player and topped Oregon State, 78-73. The Beavers, of course, were without two of their starting forwards, Devon Collier and Eric Moreland, so the loss may not be held against Craig Robinson‘s team if they are in the mix for an NCAA bid come March (assuming they’re in the mix at all). But regardless, this was a pathetic performance turned in by the Beavers. Except for a brief spurt of points from center Angus Brandt late in the second half, the only source of offense came from senior Roberto Nelson, who scored a career-high 36 points.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: Washington State Cougars

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 23rd, 2013

Today we continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Washington State Cougars

Strengths. What this Washington State team lacks in talent, it makes up with effort and outside shooting ability. The Cougars feature a solid backcourt, headlined by a pair of juniors who will share duties at the one and two. Royce Woolridge and DaVonte Lacy both averaged double figure scoring last season, and true freshman Ike Iroegbu out of Oak Hill Academy (VA) will add some depth, but may not be able to be counted on right away. The challenge will be finding a good distributor for the trio. Junior point guard Danny Lawhorn, the nation’s leader in assists last year at San Jacinto Junior College, was supposed to be that guy, but he left Washington State two weeks ago after being suspended for a violation of team rules in late September.

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Woolridge’s Ability To Score Either On The Drive Or From Three Gives Head Coach Ken Bone Flexibility In The Backcourt. (Getty Images)

Weaknesses. Like I said above, this team has a serious lack of talent. The Cougars only won 13 games last year, and that was with guys like Brock Motum and Mike Ladd on the roster. The four and five spots will be the weakest for Washington State, as head coach Ken Bone will have a tough time finding players who can consistently produce. They will rely on Iowa State transfer and Beaverton, Oregon, product Jordan Railey at center, and senior D.J. Shelton returns to start at power forward. Former walk-on Will Dilorio will see a lot of time at the three, and that should give you an idea of just how thin the Cougars are up front.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.14.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 14th, 2013

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  1. As we ease back into college basketball again, we’re back to Morning Fives every weekday from here until the end of the season. And we picked a good day to start these back up, because there is plenty of news to run down. Since the main preseason storyline is Arizona as the heavy favorite to win the league, we might as well start out with them, as the Wildcats had their annual Red-Blue Game on Saturday, an intrasquad scrimmage that serves as the introduction of the team to the supportive McKale Center crowd. Stud freshman Aaron Gordon put on quite a show, winning the dunk contest and backing that up with 13 points and 12 boards in the scrimmage. His classmate Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also looked good in his first appearance, pouring in 18 points on just 12 shots, and sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski showed improvement, notching 18 points of his own.
  2. The day before Arizona’s showcase, its in-state rival had its own intrasquad scrimmage up the road, as Arizona State got its season underway. Jahii Carson is always going to be the showcase player on this team, and he was as good as usual, scoring 22 points and showing an improved jumper. But the big story came from newcomer Shaquielle McKissic, who poured in 33 points and made a big impression in his first appearance with the Sun Devils. He showed an immediate rapport with Carson on the fast break, displayed an ability to knock down the three, and impressed defensively, forcing turnovers that led to breaks. In the competition to earn some of the minutes vacated by departing senior Carrick Felix, McKissic looks to be out in front.
  3. The news wasn’t as positive everywhere around the conference this weekend, as on Friday Washington State announced that point guard Danny Lawhorn, a junior college transfer expected to slide right into the lead guard role, had left the school. Lawhorn had already been suspended two weeks ago, not that it matters at this point. Minus Lawhorn, it looks like junior Royce Wooldridge, who had hoped to move back off the ball after he helped fill in at the one last year, will once again need to contribute at the point, while DaVonte Lacy (another guy better suited to playing the two) and freshman point Ike Oroegbu also in the mix.
  4. Minus Lawhorn, head coach Ken Bone’s chances of keeping his job inched down a little, and, as Pachoops’ Adam Butler noted, there are quite a few coaches around the league whose jobs may be in trouble. A main part of the reason why those coaches may be looking for work in the near future is their inability to keep local recruits at home. Butler points to four top-75 2014 recruits from the West Coast who have already committed to play basketball in places other than Pac-12 institutions. While the conference as a whole may be on a bit of an upswing, the failure to lock up your own state’s recruits is never a good sign of future prosperity.
  5. Lastly, way back at the end of last year, the big off-the-court story was Pac-12 coordinator of officials Ed Rush putting out a bounty – whether in jest or not – on Arizona head coach Sean Miller, a “joke” that was made seriously unfunny (well, at least Miller’s post-game comments were funny – how long has it been since you’ve watched the “He Touched the Ball” clip?) after Miller got run in suspicious fashion immediately thereafter. The conference’s immediate response (or lack thereof) to the situation was unfulfilling. But, some steps were made over the offseason to improve the officiating situation in the conference, as the Pac-12 has entered into a partnership with the Mountain West to oversee its officiating, and hired Bobby Dibler as the new coordinator of officials. One of Dibler’s first tasks is to make sure that Miller gets treated as fairly as every other coach in the conference.
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Washington State Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 22nd, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Here’s a look at Washington State.

What Went Right

Let’s first stipulate that we’re talking about a team that went 13-19 and finished tied for last place in the Pac-12 this season. Given those parameters, the Cougars actually had some big things go well for them. Mike Ladd, in his senior season, stepped into a leadership role, played out of position quite a bit at the point, and was really good; DaVonte Lacy shook off a couple injuries and a dreadful midseason slump (16-of-63 from the field in the first half of conference play) to take an overall step forward in his game; and Royce Woolridge shook off early inconsistency and lack of confidence to put together a terrific back stretch, going for 16.5 points per game over the last 12 games of the schedule. Considering Wooldridge and Lacy will be back next year and the focal points of that team, Washington State fans are able to take at least something positive away from this season.

Mike Ladd Was One Of Three Backcourt Players To Step Up In The Absence of Reggie Moore (Dean Hare, AP Photo)

Mike Ladd Was One Of Three Backcourt Players To Step Up In The Absence of Reggie Moore (Dean Hare, AP Photo)

What Went Wrong

When head coach Ken Bone dismissed senior point guard Reggie Moore just in advance of the season, you knew this team –without any obvious answers to take Moore’s place – was going to have some problems. And perhaps senior forward Brock Motum, one of the conference’s best and most efficient players in 2011-12, may have been hit the hardest. As the focal point of the offense, Motum certainly didn’t have a bad season (18.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG), but he definitely had to work a lot harder for his production without the services of a floor general to set him up in all the right spots. Bone got the best out of a bad situation, receiving point guard production from a committee including Ladd, Woolridge and Lacy, but none of those three were ever truly dialed in at the one.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.04.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 4th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. What a super game yesterday, right? A back-and-forth affair featuring a terrific comeback from an early deficit and tons of great plays made by both teams. Sure, maybe the offenses seemed to do whatever they wanted to against overmatched defenses, but those kinds of games can be plenty of fun. Yeah, that Stanford eight-point win over Oregon State sure was entertaining. Between Eric Moreland’s shotblocking, Joe Burton’s creative passing and Chasson Randle pouring in shots from deep, the Cardinal and the Beavers churned out yet another thrilling game. Please, basketball gods, find a way to match these two squads up in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament; this five-twelve thing these two teams got going on right now will do just fine.
  2. With Stanford now having strung together three straight wins in the span of eight days and somehow dug their offense out of the mothballs in the process, the Cardinal are not a team that anybody wants to see show up on their schedule right now. But does Johnny Dawkins need to keep his team winning in order to get him another season on The Farm? Miles Bennett-Smith of The Stanford Daily asks the hard questions about the likable coach, noting the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances, the failure to show appreciable improvement from year-to-year and losses to teams at the back-end of the conference standings. But, if Dawkins can keep this team playing like it has for the past week, all of these questions can get put on hold again.
  3. Last week we were discussing the possibility that Utah, despite looking like an improved team, might not match last year’s total of three conference wins this year. On Saturday, however, they turned in a strong performance, running out to a big early lead against Colorado (the Utes led by as many as 22) before hanging on down the stretch for a three-point win. Freshman Jordan Loveridge, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, missed the game with a knee injury, but sophomore Dallin Bachynski, who had been taking a “break from competition” for a couple of games due to an issue of a personal nature, did return, earning ten minutes in Loveridge’s absence. Junior college transfer Renan Lenz also got a boost in playing time due to Loveridge’s misfortune, earning the start and 18 minutes, but it was freshman Jeremy Olsen who had the biggest impact in replacing Loveridge, going for 12 points in just 14 minutes of action.
  4. Kevin Parrom was ejected from Arizona’s Saturday night game against Washington State for a “flagrant two” foul on DaVonte Lacy early in the game. Parrom hit Lacy in the fast with a closed hand while fighting over a rebound and was ejected by the officials after they looked at the video. Sean Miller noted he was “very disappointed” with his senior guard and said that Parrom embarrassed himself by retaliating against Lacy for a previous slight. Miller will look at the video and meet with Parrom before deciding on any further potential punishment, with being held out of Wednesday’s home game against Stanford a possibility.
  5. Usually the closer a recruit gets to decision-making time, the fewer schools he has on his list of potential landing spots. But, for elite 2013 recruit Aaron Gordon, he’s going the opposite direction. After trimming his list of suitors to three – Arizona, Washington and Kentucky – late last year, Gordon has now added Oregon to his list, according to Rivals.com. This is, of course, good news for Dana Altman and the Ducks and may reflect positively on what they have done so far this season, but it remains to be seen where exactly he’ll wind up. But, with three Pac-12 schools on the list, we’ll admit that we’re rooting for the chance to get a good look at this guy next season on a tour of Pac-12 stadiums and arenas. Arizona Desert Swarm has a look at the pros and cons of each possible landing spot on Gordon’s list.
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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume III

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2013

Just about one-third of the way through our semester, Oregon is the favorite pupil, having earned all As in their exams. Join Professor Pac as we once again break down our class and see who’s joining the Ducks at the front of the class and who’s in the corner with the dunce cap.

Oregon – A

Before we give props to the Ducks for their 5-0 conference start and vault to the favorite position in the conference, let’s take a minute to mourn the loss of the full 18-game home-and-away round-robin of the Pac-10. You see, with UO’s win at UCLA this week and home win against Arizona last week, the Ducks have wrapped up this seasons’ meeting with those two teams. Neither the Wildcats nor the Bruins will get a chance for revenge, at least until and unless they meet up in Vegas come mid-March. But, that’s not the Ducks fault. No, they’ve done what they’ve needed to do early and they’ve set themselves up well. Now, they’ve still got more than two-thirds of the conference schedule remaining, but here are their remaining road games in conference play: Stanford, Cal, Washington, Washington State, Colorado and Utah. They’ll be favorites in all of those games, as well as all of their home games. Sure, there are probably a couple of losses in the mix there somewhere, but barring some significant slide that Dana Altman-coached teams are not known for, the Ducks are a heavy favorite to be the #1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

Focus on: Jonathan Loyd. Freshman point guard Dominic Artis is the rightful recipient of plenty of positive buzz regarding his play, but the diminutive junior backup deserves some credit for accepting his decreased minutes and filling his role. Sure, he can’t shoot a lick. And his turnovers are through the roof this season. But you can see that his defensive intensity has carried over to his freshman pupil and he always brings energy aplenty when he’s on the court. And, consider this: a 5’8” he swatted away a Larry Drew II fastbreak layup tattempt this weekend

Looking ahead: The Ducks host the Washington schools this week and Ken Pomeroy puts the chances that they win each game somewhere north of 85%. Beware the letdown, Ducks.

Arizona – A-

For three quarters of their battle with in-state rival Arizona State on Saturday, the ‘Cats had a battle on their hands, played basically to a draw. But over the last 10 minutes, a time that coincided almost exactly with Mark Lyons coming back in the game (and, with Lyons drawing the fourth foul on Jahii Carson), they outscored the Sun Devils by 15 and equaled the biggest defeat ASU has suffered this season. Over those ten minutes, Lyons repeatedly got to the hoop, scoring 12 points and handing out three assists in likely his best 10-minute stretch as the UA point guard. The problem is the previous 30 minutes, wherein Lyons had 12 points on 11 field goal attempts, zero assists and four turnovers. Sure, he’s one heck of a closer, but as the season ramps up come March, the ‘Cats will need a more complete performance.

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Pac-12 M5: 01.17.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2013

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  1. Since the firing of Kevin O’Neill on Monday morning, coaches on the hot seat are on the minds of many around the conference. Bud Withers of The Seattle Times points to Craig Robinson, Johnny Dawkins and Ken Bone as the three remaining Pac-12 coaches most likely to be relieved of their duties following the season, and one of the factors that could play a part in their departures is the relative disinterest of the fan bases, especially at Stanford and Washington State, where small crowds have become a theme. Of note is that Ben Howland is missing from Withers’ list, but rest assured, barring a deep run in the NCAA Tournament (meaning at least past the first weekend), Howland’s position will be reevaluated once the season ends.
  2. Continuing to mine that O’Neill theme, the Arizona Daily Wildcat has a piece about how the state of UA basketball could have been much different had previous events turned out differently. To begin with, O’Neill was the interim head coach at Arizona when Lute Olson took his leave of absence in 2007-08, and, were it not for a change of heart on Olson’s part, the plan was to make O’Neill the head man when Olson retired. When that plan fell through, O’Neill wound up free to take the USC job when Tim Floyd abruptly resigned in the wake of recruiting allegations. And, in that whole regime change, guys who had been committed to USC, namely Derrick Williams and Momo Jones, wound up de-committing and instead enrolling at Arizona, became key cogs in the 2011 Elite Eight team. Solomon Hill was also at one point committed to Tim Floyd and USC, but he backed out of that and switched his allegiance to Arizona prior to the coaching change. In short, were it not for a couple simple twists of fate involving O’Neill, the present face of Arizona basketball would look significantly different.
  3. Aside from that, you know, we actually had some games in the conference tonight. Where Wednesday games were sort of a one-off rivalry-game-only type of thing in the past, these are a regular occurrence every week this year. It takes some getting used to, sure, but really, basketball spread out more evenly through the week? I ain’t complaining. Washington State kicked things off last night by raining down fire from deep on Utah on the way to the Cougs’ first conference win of the season. Coug Center’s got your round-up of all the action, including Mike Ladd’s career night. It’s worth noting that Ladd is starting to pick up the pace offensively and it is he, rather than more popular possibilities like DaVonte Lacy or Royce Woolridge, who has stepped up as the second option on this team behind Brock Motum. Ladd has now scored in double figures in five straight games, averaging better than 16 points per night over that span.
  4. As Sabatino Chen’s desperation three-pointer banked in at the buzzer at the end of Colorado’s conference opener, it appeared that the Buffaloes were ready to be a serious contender for the Pac-12 title. Almost literally since that exact moment, not much has gone right for CU. Moments later, that shot was perhaps erroneously waved off. Soon thereafter the Buffs folded in overtime of that game. And since that night, they’ve proceeded to drop three of their next four, stumbling to a 1-4 conference start, including last night’s 10-point loss at Washington. But, while Colorado gets much of the attention for their sudden failures, the Huskies are out to a surprising 4-0 conference start. But, as Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times notes, while past Husky teams have made their mark with style and flair, this vintage of UW is getting it done with grit, hustle and smarts. And, perhaps not coincidentally, they’re overachieving this year, as opposed to their almost annual recent underachievements.
  5. Lastly, on a day that wasn’t all that great for Oregon sports, there was bad news for the basketball program as well when it came to light that the prep school that 2013 recruit Cristiano Felicio is currently attending may be under scrutiny for its legitimacy as an educational institution. And, the crazy part about this story is that may not be the worst part about it. Aside from possibly being little more than a scam perpetrated on talented basketball players, the president of the school is under investigation for physically abusing some of the schools players by subjecting them to “hands and feet bound with zip ties” and “clothes pins attached to their nipples.” Yikes.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 18th, 2012

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  1. Yesterday was Monday, meaning a pair of new polls were released to lift fans from their post-weekend doldrums. Arizona was of course the highlight for Pac-12 fans, coming in at number four in the AP and fifth in the coaches poll. The argument could be made that there were four Mountain West teams better than the top Pac-12 team at most points in 2011-12, so that shows you just how far the top-tier of our conference has come in a year. The Wildcats are one of just seven undefeated teams ranked in the Top 25. The only other team without a loss is Wyoming, who comes in at #29 in the AP and #30 in the coaches.
  2. Washington State coach Ken Bone has reinstated sophomore guard Brett Kingma following a possession of marijuana arrest and subsequent suspension in late October. The Cougars could certainly use some assistance from Kingma, as DaVonte Lacy has been the only reliable scorer in the Coug backcourt. Kingma was a freshman at Oregon in the 2011-12 season, but transferred within the conference after playing just 9.8 MPG that season. He was arrested in the middle of preseason camp on possession of “several grams” of marijuana, as well as exhibiting the effects of consuming alcohol in a public place.
  3. After taking a 10-day break for Finals, Utah will return to the court tonight to face SMU. Head coach Larry Krystowiak and the Utes focused on a few different items during the layoff, with an emphasis coming in taking care of the ball and rebounding. They’ve turned the ball over at a clip of 14.4 miscues per game, including 17 in their odd, previous meeting with the Mustangs. SMU dropped Utah by a score of 62-55 in that one, but Krystowiak and company will have a chance to avenge the loss in a conference play-like second game of a home-and-home.
  4. UCLA got a nice surprise on Monday morning when former Bruin great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke to the team during its shootaround. Coach Ben Howland asked the all-time scoring leader in the NBA to speak to the team after taping an interview for a local news program. The current Bruins exclaimed that it was an “eye-opening experience” and a clear reminder of the legacy the UCLA program holds. The Bruins, who have started the season a disappointing 7-3, host Long Beach State tonight.
  5. It may seem silly to think about for a team ranked as high as Arizona is, but Pac-12 fans always seem to cringe nowadays when a trap game arrives on the schedule. The Wildcats are doing the best to avoid that situation, quickly getting back to business to prepare for tonight’s meeting with Oral Roberts. The game comes sandwiched in between last Saturday’s thriller against Florida and a trip to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic, where the Cats could face a pair of high-profile teams in Miami (FL) and San Diego State. But first up are the Golden Eagles, a team that won 27 games a year ago. As the article points out, ORU faces its own challenges preparing for the match-up, having to shake off both mental and physical rust that comes from not playing a game in nearly two weeks.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2012

  1. Gonzaga’s last second win over Washington State on Wednesday night goes down as one of the best games of the young season so far, and while Ken Bone and the Cougars aren’t big on the concept of the moral victory against a bitter rival, there are some good things they can take away from that game. First and foremost, their stars stepped up in a big way. Brock Motum and DaVonte Lacy combined for five threes in a four-and-a-half minute stretch to bring the Cougs back from an 11-point deficit to tie the game and set up the final scramble. And if WSU has any plans to turn around a slow start to the year, it will need to be on the backs of those two. The other big thing is that, while this team will be without a traditional point guard the whole year, Bone seems to have cobbled together a workable solution. Mike Ladd seems to do most of the play-making in the halfcourt set, but guys like Royce Woolridge, Dexter Kernich-Drew and Lacy have all pitched in and assembled a good point-guard-by-committee group that is doing an excellent job limiting turnovers and getting WSU into their sets. It was bumpy at the start of the year, but the Gonzaga loss proved to me, at least, that the situation is workable.
  2. Meanwhile, Utah, another team expected to finish near the bottom of the conference, was able to come up with its best performance of the year in blowing out Boise State. On a night when the Utes honored former head coach Rick Majerus prior to the game, Utah center Jason Washburn said “we felt like Coach Majerus was with us all night; he was right on the bench with us, smiling down.”  Washburn went 6-of-6 from the field to pace an incredibly hot shooting night for the Utes, in which they shot a ridiculous 78.8% eFG. Block U calls the win the best by the program in the last four years, and, although I could nitpick, it is being taken as a sign by the Ute faithful that Larry Krystkowiak has got this ship headed in the right direction.
  3. We’ve talked a lot about Mark Lyons over the last few days, and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News has his own take on his transition to the point, which includes the unconvincing argument of “hey, they’re beating a lot of bad teams by a lot of points!” But, DeCourcy does make the point that Lyons is never really the sole ballhandler on the floor for Arizona and that Sean Miller is quite pleased with Lyons’ production. I would maybe go even one step further and say that, while Lyons is the closest thing to a point guard on the team, very rarely is he tasked with being the initiator of the halfcourt offense, a role that just as often falls to either Solomon Hill or Nick Johnson. Lyons may spend a bit more time with the ball in his hands this year than he did last year playing with Tu Holloway at Xavier, but really, Miller hasn’t exactly tried to rebuild Lyons from the ground up.
  4. Even with UCLA’s struggles out of the gate, Shabazz Muhammad still thinks his team is going to make an impact in the Pac-12 this season, even if it has been relegated to sleeper status by their early losses. He told the Petros and Money show on Fox Radio on Wednesday how he feels about the rest of the season. But, the big takeaway from Muhammad’s comments (other than the overwhelming use of the word “really”) may be that Ben Howland has “become a players’ coach.” Muhammad ties that comment to the change that encourages the team to get out in transition more, and it is true that UCLA’s averaging about three more possessions per game this year than last, but certainly Howland is still trying to figure out the sweet spots on both ends of the floor for this team.
  5. Another team that has earned the title “sleeper team” in the Pac-12 is Oregon, off to a 7-1 start behind the production of an all-freshman backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. While senior leader E.J. Singler is quick to praise his younger players, Dana Altman, ever the coach, sees the need for better consistency and better shot selection out of the backcourt duo. Still, he sees them as key cogs in the long-term plans for the Ducks. And, an already deep and talented team expects to get even deeper and more talented, when freshman Arik Armstead is expected to join the team in January. Armstead, a defensive tackle for the Ducks football team, won’t join the team until after Oregon’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl (January 3 against Kansas State) and it’ll take some time for him to get into basketball shape and learn the ins and outs of the teams’ sets, but he’s been spending a bit of time working with team managers. Just how much of an impact he’ll have is unknown, especially with a now deep Ducks big man rotation, but you can never have too much talent, can you?
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Pac 12 M5: 11.21.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on November 21st, 2012

  1. Although Colorado and Tad Boyle are pleased with their early season performance and championship in the Charleston Classic, not everyone is content on the Buffaloes. Wesley Gordon, a surprising redshirt freshman who many thought would impact the Buffaloes this year due to their lack of depth in the front court, has not been able to help the Buffaloes early on this year. Gordon chose to redshirt, but in the final of the classic against Murray State, the Buffaloes’ Andre Roberson and Josh Scott both got into foul trouble and Colorado had to rely on players like Xavier Johnson and Jeremy Adams to step up. Neither Adams Nor Johnson are 6’8″ and 225 pounds like Gordon and neither has the defensive ability that Gordon possesses. Even though Gordon did choose this on his own for betterment of the program, early on, he seems to be adjusting to his decision slowly.
  2. With the Oregon Ducks losing three starters in Devoe Joseph, Garret Sim, and Olu Ashaolu last year to graduation, there were doubts about this team, but the defense has picked up the slack to start off the year. For the second consecutive game, Oregon held their opposition to 20 points in the first half. Adding Arsalan Kazemi to a team with Tony Woods up front certainly has helped. The Ducks have registered 40 steals in their first four games and blocked 17 shots. Even better for Dana Altman, the players believe they have a long way to go still on defense, which isn’t good news for the rest of the Pac-12.
  3. The other team in Oregon, the Oregon State Beavers, are still dealing with the season-ending injury of Angus Brandt. Coach Craig Robinson seems unfazed by the injury as he still believes his team can make the NCAA Tournament. In Brandt’s absence, the Beavers will have to use more of the 6’9″  freshman Olaf Schaftnaar off the bench and most likely start other 6’7″ freshman Jarmal Reid in Brandt’s place. Additionally, the Beavers will need more out of Joe Burton, Eric Moreland, and Devon Collier. The Beavers are fine from a depth standpoint to replace Brandt, but they’ll need to improve their overall play up front to truly make Craig Robinson forget Brandt’s injury.
  4. As if the Washington State Cougars didn’t have enough trouble last night, getting dominated by Kansas 78-41, they also lost DaVonte Lacy to an apparent knee injury. Lacy left the game after only five minutes and was unable to play tonight in the Cougars’ 55-54 loss to Texas A&M, a result that could have changed were able to play. No news has come out yet on Lacy’s injury as he will be evaluated today in Pullman, but a loss of a starter and 8.5 PPG so far this year would be a major problem for the Cougars if he’s out for a prolonged period of time. Given that was Lacy is a major contributor for the team-wide project of finding a replacement for the dismissed Reggie Moore, the WSU problems at the lead guard position may have just gotten worse.
  5. Everything is still the same for Sean Miller down in Arizona. If you can shoot the lights out and score on offense, it won’t matter if you can’t play defense. That’s exactly Kevin Parrom‘s dilemma. Parrom went 5-5 from three putting up 15 points in 20 minutes, but Sean Miller said his playing time will be predicated on how he plays defense. The Wildcats gave up 14 threes to Long Beach and Parrom’s guarding of Long Beach’s shooting guards was a main reason for this. Parrom knows he has to improve on defense, and if he does, he will continue to see the floor. If not, guys like Jordin Mayes and freshman Gabe York are more than willing to steal some minutes.
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